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Stroke secondary to carotid stenosis

Contents of this page:


Carotid stenosis, X-ray of the left artery
Carotid stenosis, X-ray of the left artery
Carotid stenosis, X-ray of the right artery
Carotid stenosis, X-ray of the right artery
Arteries of the brain
Arteries of the brain

Definition    Return to top

Stroke secondary to carotid stenosis is a group of brain disorders involving loss of brain function.

Causes    Return to top

Stroke secondary to carotid stenosis occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked. This is usually related to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), particularly those arteries in the neck. Carotid stenosis means hardening of the neck arteries.

Atherosclerosis occurs when a sticky substance called plaque builds up in the inner lining of the arteries. The plaque may block or narrow an artery. A blood clot may occur at the site of the plaque. If a piece of plaque breaks off and travels to an artery in the brain, it can cause a blockage or even a stroke. The risks for stroke secondary to carotid stenosis are the same as atherosclerosis.

Stroke secondary to carotid stenosis is most common in older people. Often times, patients with stroke secondary to carotid stenosis have atherosclerotic heart disease or diabetes.

Radiation therapy to the area may also cause carotid stenosis.

Symptoms    Return to top

Exams and Tests    Return to top

An exam may show:

The following tests may be done:

Treatment    Return to top

For specific treatment, see stroke.

Medicine may be prescribed for:

Surgery to remove the plaque from the carotid (neck) arteries may be needed, especially if more than 70% of the carotid artery is blocked. The procedure is called carotid endarterectomy.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

Stroke is a leading cause of death in the United States. About 25% of people who have a stroke die from the stroke itself or complications. About half have long-term problems.

However, 25% of people who have a stroke recover most or all of their function.

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if symptoms occur.

Prevention    Return to top

High blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and other risk factors should be treated.

If you smoke, you should stop.

Treatment of TIA (transient ischemic attack, "warning strokes") may prevent future strokes.

Aspirin therapy (81mg a day or 100mg every other day) is now recommended for stroke prevention in women under 65 as long as the benefits outweigh the risks. It should be considered for women over age 65 only if their blood pressure is controlled and the benefit is greater than the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding and brain hemorrhage.

References    Return to top

Mosca L, Banka CL, Benjamin EJ, et al. Evidence-Based Guidelines for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Women: 2007 Update. Circulation. 2007; Published online before print February 19, 2007.

Update Date: 2/20/2007

Updated by: Updated by: A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: Greg Juhn, M.T.P.W., David R. Eltz, Kelli A. Stacy. Previously reviewed by Daniel Kantor, M.D., Director of the Comprehensive MS Center, Neuroscience Institute, University of Florida Health Science Center, Jacksonville, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.(April 2006)

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